Prohibition of motorcycle use + risk assessing with micromorts

On some of our projects, participants occasionally ask if they can hire a scooter/motorbike. This is especially common in SE Asia. Like any responsible travel organisation, unfortunately, we cannot allow this during our programmes. 

Anyone that drives a motorcycle faces a disciplinary and suspension, more on this process below. 

Our reasoning:

We love motorbikes, so we don't make this policy lightly. Please read on carefully to understand the important elements of this policy.

First, the vast majority of you don't have a licence for motorbikes. Some people think that they are allowed to drive the smallest class of motorbike, a 50cc moped, using a UK car licence. However, this is not true!

There is confusion about 50cc perhaps because the law was changed recently in 2001, explained here. For clarity, in the UK, the law is that you cannot drive any motorbike until you have passed a CBT (compulsory basic training course), and a CBT expires every two years. Importantly, a CBT is only valid in the UK. There is no international recognition of a CBT. This all means that the only legal way a UK citizen with a UK licence issued after 2001 can drive a motorbike abroad is to obtain a full UK licence to drive a motorbike. (P.s. you wouldn't want to drive a 50cc anyway, it is arguably much less safe than a higher CC - these bikes can be unstable and their acceleration restriction/lack of speed make them dangerous to use on any major road.)
We cannot permit you to drive illegally. Some reasons why you should not drive illegally include:
  • It is unethical and immoral to take a motorised vehicle onto the road when you are not trained, you risk killing yourself or others.
  • If you drive illegally and get caught then you would face a criminal record and/or prison, you would be lucky to only get deported. In most parts of the world, if you involve another party in an accident when riding illegally, you would (and probably should) face some prison time.
  • If you are driving illegally, then no insurance policy would cover you, explained here. So, if you need medical treatment or evacuation, you might face ruinously expensive fees. You could easily force your loved ones to enter hundreds of thousands of £s of debt to fly you (or your remains) home - for more please Google search "medical evacuation".  Please don't put your loved ones in a position where they need to sell their house to fly you home in a coma, we have seen this happen to a friend - it can easily cost £200,000+...Please don't do anything that could invalidate your health cover, more info on that here.

But what if I have a licence to drive a motorbike?

Our programmes are designed so that you have options for commuting and necessary travel which don't involve motorbikes.

Our risk assessment still considers motorbike use to be too dangerous to endorse, and out of fairness to other participants we cannot give special treatment to the very, very small minority of licensed riders. If this is you, well done for getting a licence. Once your programme ends, you could plan some motorbiking - in order to do this legally, a Gotoco founder obtained a full motorbike licence just to drive a 125cc scooter around Hong Kong. Get in touch if you'd like to know more about that process..

Note for foreign licence holders: We cannot stay on top of legislation for every country on earth, so we will assume that car licences are never sufficient. Only motorbike licences make you safe to drive - non-UK car licences won't be considered as applicable therefore.

Assessing risk:

It is difficult to understand and compute risk, most of us do a terrible job at assessing risks (this is proven to be particularly true before people hit middle age!). A helpful way to calculate risk is in micromorts, check out this article to learn more about that and here for another good intro:

In summary: As statistician David Spiegelhalter of the University of Cambridge explains, "let’s weigh up skydiving against riding a motorbike. Seven to 10 people die for every million parachute jumps, so that’s 7 to 10 micromorts. On a motorbike, you’d do about 10 kilometres before reaching 1 micromort. So one skydive is like 80 kilometres on a motorbike."  People that hire a bike usually cover 400km/month, facing the equivalent risk of 5 parachute jumps! If you wouldn't jump once a week then definitely don't ride. Also, you would be well advised to drill-down your analysis into your programme location, e.g 80km on a road in e.g rural SE Asia may involve significantly greater risk than is calculated in the case above...Thailand for example has some of the highest road death figures on earth, with 3/4 of those attributed to 2-3wheelers, source.

Disciplinary Procedure:

If you are caught driving or there is significant evidence that you have been driving, we reserve the right to immediately send you home if the risk is deemed too great, or if we deem that your attitude makes it likely that further risks will be engaged in.
Where it is deemed reasonable to follow a disciplinary procedure. This is only a two-step process as it is a matter of life and death, we cannot allow multiple chances. The strikes are:
Strike 1: sadly, you have now deliberately defied our risk-assessed rules, you will be sent home if this happens again
– You will have the opportunity to explain yourself, if you have good reasons for your behaviour then we will allow you to engage in this disciplinary process.
– We will require you to watch a 2-hour road traffic safety awareness course and further videos to teach you the dangers of motorcycle use. We will inform you about steps 2, 3, and 4 below.
– Your emergency contacts would be liable for arranging your emergency treatment if you have an accident, so we will require that you inform your emergency contacts that you have engaged in dangerous practices. We will need evidence that they acknowledge this. 
– We will also inform them that you have waived liability for what happens if your insurance is invalidated and you have an accident.
– Additionally, we will inform you that you are in violation of our programme rules and so your £200 deposit may be withheld and donated to a charity of your choice (preferably road deaths related, or a local charity in the programme location) if you break another programme rule.

– We will ensure you know that your next strike will have you sent home, prior to this we will inform you of any debts you'd incur through expulsion from the programme, such as the TESOL fee on the TESOL course that we fund.

– Parole: you will be put on parole. You may be asked to ensure you are always with one other person and able to checkin about what you are doing anytime of day/night. This is because we really don't want to be forced to send you home, and so need to ensure you don't break any further rules.

Strike 2: game over, sorry! 
– Your deposit will now be donated. You will lose access to travel funding and may need to reimburse us for other costs, as explained at strike 1.
– We will arrange a car to drop you off at the airport in 24 hours, giving you sufficient time to book your own flight out of our programme location.


You may wish to ride pillion where there is a competent, legal, insured motorcycle driver. However, while you would normally be covered by health insurance, you may still invalidate your insurance, so make sure you clarify this with your insurer before you proceed and you do so at your own risk. Please note that many local motorbike taxi drivers may not be insured or driving legally, and you should not ride with them unless you have clarified these points. If you don't follow this guidance when using motorbike taxis, then the above disciplinary procedures will apply. 

We strongly recommend against motorbike taxis as you are still putting yourself at significant risk of serious injury or even death. Please exercise extreme caution and avoid motorbikes.

By joining a Gotoco programme, you acknowledge that you have read and agree to Gotoco's motorcycle/scooter policy described above and will abide by the rules.

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